Per Petterson wins the Nordic Council Literature Prize 2009

Photo: Finn Ståle Felberg

Photo: Finn Ståle Felberg

Norwegian author Per Petterson was April 3 named winner of the 2009 Nordic Council Literature Prize, worth $ 63,000. Petterson was cited for the novel “Jeg forbanner tidens elv” (I Curse The River of Time).

It conveys in “poetic and quiet language … just how difficult it is to say to each other those things we feel are the most important,” the jury said.

Petterson, born in 1952, made his debut with a collection of short stories in 1987. A trained librarian, he has written five novels including Out Stealing Horses, In the Wake, and To Siberia.

Last year, Danish author Naja Marie Aidt won the award.

Petterson was due to receive the award late October during the Nordic Council Session in the Swedish capital, Stockholm.

The Nordic Council Literature Prize has been awarded since 1962, 10 years after the Nordic Council was formed.

The council is the forum for inter-parliamentary cooperation between the five Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, plus three autonomous territories, including Greenland.


Praise for I Curse the River of Time:

“Norwegian super writer has done it again … Per Petterson’s outstanding novel about Arvid is a great elegy over a mother-son relationship … What is Per Petterson’s secret? He is always compared to Hemingway and Raymond Carver … But Petterson has more warmth. What he really knows how to do is to make the moment stand out with a complete, obvious clarity.”

(Politiken, Denmark)

“… the magic resides in the prose itself. It is simple and sophisticated. Not of the twisting and twirling kind and never boringly descriptive, the language depicts the main character’s inner life with great care for the details and occasionally brutal honesty. The strength, as in all great literature, lies just as much in what the narrator suppresses and leaves out, as in what tells. A seemingly banal and mundane series of events acquires resonance and depth with Petterson’s pen. […] Petterson is a great depictor of the sad beauty and curse of human lives.”

(Oline Stig, Sydsvenskan, Sweden)

A melancholic beautiful autumnal journey, perfect from the first letter to the last full stop … Truly masterful is the depiction of the tiny signals that pass between people who hardly talk with each other.

(Dag og tid)

… another strong book … a book swept in the peculiar November light her in the North, where all living things seem to be swallowed by the great black-purple emptiness.


Prose from a mature master … In an impressive fashion Petterson succeeds in writing a complex family tale, which on the surface might appear to flow very quietly … unforgettable humorous scenes.


A gripping double portrait of mother and son … Per Petterson is still a blessedly down to earth storyteller with a great sense of style, who succeeds in finding enough small words for great feelings.

(Stavanger Aftenblad)

No Norwegian author writes about existential questions in a more touching and captivating way than Petterson.


Per Petterson’s technique is getting more and more clear and distinct. … Petterson unconditionally deserves to be called a great writer.


The doubtless greatest strength of this novel is its style, which is sympathetic, intimate and free of self-importance. Some writers almost seem to write their words into the blood of the reader, and Petterson is among them.


A sensitive and strong novel … draws a glowing portrait of a dying, but firm and determined woman who decides to make a farewell journey through the landscapes that were to change her for life when she was only in her twenties.


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